HAVANA – Colombian peace negotiators missed Wednesday’s deadline for a final accord but will continue talks in Havana to end Latin America’s longest war, a government official said.
“In all honesty, we have to inform the public that at the moment there are still important differences with the FARC,” Humberto de la Calle, the government’s lead negotiator, told reporters.
The government of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and leftist rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, had set a self-imposed March 23 deadline to reach a comprehensive pact.
In all honesty, we have to inform the public that at the moment there are still important differences with the FARC.”
-Humberto de la Calle, Colombian government lead negotiator
Both sides have been saying recently the goal could not be reached, largely because of rebel security concerns.
Latin America’s longest war has killed some 220,000 people and displaced millions of others since 1964.
The government and rebels, meeting in Havana for more than three years, are attempting to reach a deal that would be placed before Colombian voters for approval, with a U.N. mission supervising rebel disarmament.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met the Colombian negotiating teams on Monday, including with the FARC for the first time, in Havana during President Barack Obama’s historic trip.
The rebels expressed gratitude for U.S. involvement, which they said might help move negotiations forward and protect their fighters once they lay down their weapons.
In January, the United States co-sponsored a U.N. Security Council Resolution to set up a mission of unarmed international observers to monitor and verify any peace agreement.
The rebels have raised concerns about recently reactivated right-wing paramilitary groups, saying they might pose a threat to the FARC once it disarms. The rebels also want more safety zones where they can hand in their weapons. On a previous FARC attempt to give up arms for legal politics, in 1985, hundreds of their former combatants were assassinated.
FRANK JACK DANIEL